Since 2005, The Phillips Collection has solicited k-12 educators to be part of the museum’s Mentor Teacher Program, which enables best-practice school teachers to partner with the Phillips to produce and publish inventive lessons that weave museum artwork and visual arts learning into school curriculum. This past Monday, the museum hosted 45 teachers from Stafford Elementary School in Northern Virginia. The museum experience was a professional day dedicated to learning how art can inspire learning across the curriculum. Led by a four-person cross-curricular teaching team who first worked with the museum in 2006, teachers created watercolors that combined artistic imagination and scientific observation, made sketches in the galleries, and learned how to integrate the teaching of math, social studies, and language arts into studying and creating visual art.
Experiment Station readers may recall the Modigliani: Beyond the Myth exhibition at the Phillips in 2005. The past ten years has seen an increase of interest in Modigliani who was the subject of the Phillips show and three other major traveling exhibitions. Recently, D.C.-based biographer Meryle Secrest, who specializes in books on art world figures, such as Salvador Dali, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Sir Kenneth Clarke, completed a biography of Modigliani.
Secrest’s biography of Modigliani walks the tight rope between a scholarly and popular read. Secrest’s scholarly goal is to reveal that Modigliani, infamous for his self-destructive behavior that included prolific drug use and dissolute living leading to his tragic death at age 35, has not been properly recognized a tuberculosis sufferer. This disease, from which he suffered first as a child and ultimately contributed to his death, nearly killed him before he reached his 15th birthday. Consequently, Secrest writes about the disease extensively. One learns in great detail not just how tuberculosis afflicted Modigliani the reason it was known as consumption: “because that’s what it did; immediately or by slow degrees, it would consume the lungs and infiltrate the body until the flesh had burned away and the victim could count his ribs.”
As an avid admirer of Modigliani and someone who tries to read everything I can about him, Secrest’s book was intriguing to me not because she offered new insights on his work, but rather because she helped me see his work in a new light. Continue reading “The Metaphysical Architecture of Modigliani” »
To celebrate our 90th anniversary The Phillips Collection held an all-day birthday party attended by 4,400 people. In honor of the event, my colleagues in the education department and I were asked to give half hour tours every hour on the special 90th anniversary installation of Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. The museum’s masterpiece is on display in its original location in a gallery in the Phillips family home, which was, when Luncheon of the Boating Party debuted there on New Year’s Day 1924, known as the Main Gallery.
I thought it would be fun to reacquaint visitors with the Boating Party by describing what it would be like to view it in its original location as a form of time travel. I described the room as it looked then, with couches, rugs, ashtrays—in case anyone wanted to smoke—and a skylight. I let them know that in 1924 Calvin Coolidge was president, gas cost an average of 21 cents per gallon, Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue was first performed that year, and one of the year’s most popular movies was The Thief of Baghdad starring Douglas Fairbanks.
Perhaps the most interesting bit of trivia about the historic year of 1924, however, was that Duncan Phillips’s beloved Washington Senators baseball team won the World Series—remember his wife Marjorie’s most famous painting Night Baseball(1951) featured the hometown team. The Senators took game seven from the New York Giants winning four games to three, when future hall-of-famer Walter Johnson came in to pitch relief in a 12 inning game. I don’t know if Duncan Phillips ever made the connection, but the year Luncheon of the Boating Party first went on view was the first year in baseball history that a major league team from Washington ever won the World Series. The Senators have become the Washington Nationals, but we’re still waiting for the second World Series victory.
Was it a coincidence that the Senators won the World Series that year? I hardly think so.
Paul Ruther, Manager of Teacher Programs